Manitoba's provincial capital Winnipeg is right on trend! The metropolis delights with its lively charm and the open-minded nature of its approximately 780,000 inhabitants. Many diverse neighborhoods offer an exciting mix of history, architecture, shopping opportunities, cultural offerings and, last but not least, culinary surprises. The following five neighborhoods are definitely worth exploring in Winnipeg:
It is not without reason that the Exchange District, as Winnipeg's former commercial center, is one of Canada's National Historic Sites. Its 150 historic buildings, spread across 20 residential blocks to the left and right of Main Street, date from the turn of the century, when the then fast-growing and thriving city was considered the gateway to western Canada. Because of these buildings, Winnipeg is often referred to as the "Chicago of the North" - the architectural similarity between the two cities cannot be denied. Once home to financial institutions, the stately buildings are now home to the city's cultural center with owner-operated boutiques, restaurants, cafés and galleries.
For an inspiring insight at the fascinating history and secrets of the cobblestone and tree-lined streets, take a historic walking tour with an Exchange District Biz tour guide. Afterwards, there are cool restaurants with some of the city's most renowned chefs, including deer + almond, Clementine Café and Nonsuch Brewing Co. How about a legendary latte at Parlour Coffee or Colosimo Coffee Roasters?
Freshly fortified, you can browse for locally produced treasures at Tara Davis Gallery or Boutique Anya. If you have more time on your hands, check out contemporary Indigenous art at the Urban Shaman Gallery or stroll along the waterfront to the Manitoba Museum . From a natural history perspective, a journey through millions of years across the province's vast and varied landscapes awaits.
The green Stephen Juba Park also invites you to take a walk and offers a fantastic view of the Red River. The best photo stop in the Exchange District is at Old Market Square. A futuristic-looking giant cube - The Cube - serves not only as an Instagram-worthy backdrop, but also as a stage for major festivals such as the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and the Winnipeg Jazz Festival.
Hotel tips at Exchange District:
Mere Hotel: boutique Hotel on the shore of Red River
Fairmont Hotel Winnipeg: upscale city hotel with elegant furnishings
Walking through downtown Winnipeg, the impressive architecture of the district immediately catches the eye. Old walls from the turn of the century and the early 20th century are juxtaposed with modern glass buildings - a truly exciting mix!
City tours by Soncina Travel or Square Peg Tours include historical sights such as the old building of Union Station, the Fort Garry Hotel - a former railroad hotel in chateau style - and the majestic Manitoba Legislative Building. From its domed roof, the famous Golden Boy looks over the city.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery with the new Inuit art centre Qaumajuq is not to be missed when visiting this part of town. Qaumajuq houses the world's largest public collection of Inuit artifacts from around the world. These are displayed in huge gallery spaces and a gigantic glass chamber (visible vault) that spans several floors. A real feast for the eyes!
Downtown Winnipeg is also home to the legendary Winnipeg Jets. The famous ice hockey team plays its home games at Canada Life Centre, where top-class concerts are often held outside of game days. Right next door is the True North Square building complex, whose chic Hargrave Street Market invites you to dine in the evening. Here, the best delicatessen can be found at Mottola Grocery, and the local beer from Lake of the Woods Brewing Co. is also not to be missed.
But Downtown Winnipeg has more culinary surprises to offer. Insider tips include the Modern Electric Lunch with its hip sandwiches or the brunch classics at Stella's Café in the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art Gallery. For the more tried-and-true, try a Fat Boy Burger at VJ's Drive-In or order takeaway from the eclectic food trucks lined up along Broadway Boulevard.
Hotel tips in Downtown:
Fort Garry Hotel: former railroad hotel with historical charm
Delta Hotels by Marriott Winnipeg: city hotel with rooftop outdoor pool
Between the Exchange District and Downtown Winnipeg lies an area known as The Forks, which is one of Canada's National Historic Sites. For more than 6,000 years, this sacred piece of land at the confluence of the Red River and Assiniboine River has been significant to Indigenous peoples. For millennia, they used it as a meeting place for trade, ceremonies and settlement.
Today, The Forks is a popular stomping ground for locals and visitors alike. With its myriad shopping, restaurants and attractions, it feels like its own neighborhood where you could easily spend an entire day exploring. A guided tour from Parks Canada provides plenty of information about the history of the place. Alternatively, you can explore on your own with an audio tour. Also, the Winnipeg Trolley Company's iconic orange nostalgia trolley picks up guests right at The Forks Market and offers tours of the city.
The renovated premises of The Forks Market were once stables of the railroad company - the station is just a few steps away. Today, a whole range of beautiful boutiques and craft stores invite you to stroll there. The Food Hall also has a wonderful selection of restaurants. Tall Grass Bakery is one of Manitoba's best bakeries, and Fergie’s Fish & Chips offers local walleye, a signature dish of local cuisine. Also in the heart of the food hall is the iconic The Common, a trendy bar with indoor and outdoor seating and a carefully selected lineup of craft beers and cask wines.
Other attractions at The Forks include, of course, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which has long been THE landmark on Winnipeg's skyline with its fancy architecture. Also located here are the ManitobaChildren's Museum, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Riverstone Spa at the Inn at the Forks as well as the Oodena Celebration Circle Indigenous gathering place and several Indigenous sculptures.
Hotel tips at The Forks:
Inn at the Forks: modern boutique hotel in a prime location next to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
SEASONS OF TUXEDO
With big-name stores like Cabela's for outdoor adventurers, IKEA for fans of home accessories, and SAKS OFF 5th for fashion enthusiasts, the suburban Seasons of Tuxedo neighborhood in southwest Winnipeg has become THE shopping destination in town. For a cool shopping experience, check out the Outlet Collection - a chic mall with stores for every taste, including Under Armour, Kate Spade and Banana Republic. After shopping, kids can have fun at Winnipeg's largest indoor arcade, The Rec Room. There's also a bowling alley and virtual reality arena to make it a full evening of entertainment.
Just outside of Seasons of Tuxedo lies FortWhyte Alive. This nature preserve near the city offers beautiful walking trails through prairie landscapes and aspen forests, past lakes and over boardwalks - an ideal change of pace to get some fresh air. Visitors can rent bicycles or canoes to explore the area from different perspectives. The highlight is a safari to the herd of prairie bison that is native here.
Hotel tips in Seasons of Tuxedo:
Hyatt House Outlet Collection
Hilton Garden Inn Winnipeg South
Both hotels are within walking distance of the shopping experiences in this part of town.
St. Boniface is Winnipeg's French-speaking neighborhood and offers plenty of Francophone history, architecture and culture. As soon as you cross the impressive Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge, which spans the Red River and connects The Forks and Downtown Winnipeg with St. Boniface, you feel like you're in another world. The food stalls here, run by local French entrepreneurs, provide a wonderful culinary component.
The best place to start exploring this part of town is at the information center in the former St. Boniface City Hall on Provencher Boulevard. Here, you can get initial information, book a tour or learn more about the history and passionate lifestyle of Manitoba's francophone community through a documentary film. A visit to the art gallery La maison des artistes visuels francophones is also recommended - it is the only gallery in Western Canada under French management. A little further down the street, the Centre culturel Franco-Manitobain is home to the Théâtre Cercle Molière, which stages French-language performance art.
The Musée de Saint Boniface is located in the oldest building in Manitoba. Built more than 170 years ago, it was originally a convent. Today it is full of Francophone history and art, including a permanent exhibit on Métis Louis Riel, founding father of the province of Manitoba. The museum also offers tours of the neighbourhood in the summer. Just a block away is Saint Boniface Cathedral. The current church was built in 1971 after a fire burned down most of the original cathedral. The old facade, dating back to 1894, still stands in front of the modern building and is a must-see for any photographer. At the cemetery in front of the church is the tombstone of Louis Riel. A plaque commemorates his life and legacy.
Another St. Boniface treasure is Fort Gibraltar, the replica of a 19th-century North West Company fur trading fort. During the summer months, performers in period dress bring the fur-trading era back to life here.
Last but not least, don't miss the culinary side of the Francophone lifestyle in St. Boniface. The delicious pastries from La Belle Baguette go wonderfully with a caffè latte from Café Postal. In the evening, a stop at Resto Gare's old train car is a very special experience before ending the day with a freshly poured beer from the tap at the Kilter Brewing Company.